There’s no better way to celebrate the longer, warmer days of summer than packing a picnic and catching up with friends and family.
With miles of coastline, acres of countryside and numerous gardens and parks the National Trust cares for some of the best spots in the country for eating al fresco and drinking in the stunning views.
Here are some of the top picnic spots and places to visit:
Mussenden Temple, Downhill, County Antrim
For a picnic with a view, you can't beat Mussenden Temple at Downhill Demesne. With panoramic views of the famous Antrim coast, this clifftop walk is the ideal place for kite flying. There are picnic tables in the apple orchard or take shelter in the shaded Black Glen woodland and go in search of the small lake hidden in the valley.
Minnowburn, County Down
Close to Belfast, Minnowburn is an idyllic picnic spot in the heart of Lagan Valley Regional Park. Enjoy riverbank, meadow and woodland walks and see if you can spot a kingfisher as you picnic by the water’s edge. Following an Italian sunken garden style, with Art Deco and Arts and Crafts influences, Terrace Hill Garden has a range of seating fashioned from the old decking of the Lagan weir bridge. Take a seat, take in the sights and smells and enjoy panoramic views of the valley.
Castle Ward, County Down
Part gothic castle and part classical Palladian Mansion, this unique 18th century house is famed for its mixture of architectural styles, while the wider estate offers plenty to explore from the Georgian farmyard to the shores of Strangford Lough. Dragonflies and damselflies, exotic flowers and sweet garden scents will surround you if you roll out a picnic rug in the Victorian Sunken Garden. Alternatively, stroll along the shore, relax by the quayside with a picnic and see if you can spot any seals in Strangford Lough.
The Argory, County Armagh
Work up an appetite with a stroll along River Blackwater and up through Lime Tree avenue. Let the kids run wild in the woods, before exploring the fabulous gardens. Picnic on the rolling lawns in front of this Irish gentry house or seek shelter and solitude in the shade.
Crom, County Fermanagh
Lying on the southern shores of Upper Lough Erne, the Crom estate is the ideal spot to while away a summer’s day. Wend your way through the cool shade of ancient woodlands to seek out castle ruins, or ramble across meadows in search of butterflies and dragonflies. If you fancy seeing things from a different viewpoint, hire a boat from the Visitor Centre to row out across the lake to enjoy the cool breeze. Then when you’re ready for lunch, indulge in something from the tearoom or make use of the picnic benches perched by the water’s edge.
Murlough National Nature Reserve, County Down
Summer and the seaside go hand in hand and where better to soak up the sun than Murlough National Nature Reserve. Follow the trails and boardwalks through the ancient dunes, before emerging onto the sandy Blue Flag beach with its crystal clear waters that are perfect for swimming. Pack a picnic along with your bucket and spade and enjoy a family day by the sea.
Rowallane Garden, County Down
Just a short drive from Belfast, Rowallane is a beautiful setting for a walk and picnic. With acres of garden filled with interesting plants to see and smell, Rowallane has plenty of sturdy benches available, or take a blanket and find your own hidden corner among the blooms. Top locations include the grassy knoll near the Visitor Centre which is surrounded by large rhododendrons and the beautiful iron bandstand that provides perfect cover if you experience a summer rain shower.
Every single visit supports the National Trust’s conservation work, looking after special places for people to enjoy for years to come.